Miriam’s Musings

The risks and responsibilities of vaccinating your child!

A decision to offer children as young as twelve a Covid vaccine has caused concern among many readers who are also parents.

While young children and teenagers have, in medical terms, been spared the worst of this virus – and I do understand that psychologically, they have, like the rest of us, had a difficult time – this latest development has caused a bit of a divide among parents. Some are delighted the vaccine will be available to their little darlings. Others are very wary. I personally find the latter to be totally understandable.

When my first-born arrived six weeks prematurely, she was not only tiny; she had chronic asthma, meaning she had a compromised immune and respiratory system.  It was left to me, her eighteen-year-old mammy, (her dad, my former husband, chose to opt out of major decisions), to decide whether or not to have her vaccinated against whooping cough.

During the 70s and 80s, few subjects around infant and child healthcare caused the amount of controversy and concern as that which surrounded the then whooping cough vaccine.  Back then, in rare cases, it was alleged that following immunisation, some babies developed what were described as ‘neurological conditions’ that were thought to have left them with ‘permanent neurological’ ailments. Again, this was rare, but it was a major concern for me as a young, inexperienced mother who had no support mechanism.

I spoke with our family doctor who advised me to have my tiny asthmatic baby (who was highly susceptible to contracting whooping cough) vaccinated. However, I had to weigh up the risks of possible neurological damage to my child versus the dangers that whooping cough, should she get it, could do to her little lungs. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make as a mother, and, while I chose to go ahead with all of her other childhood vaccinations, I made it clear she was not having the whooping cough (Pertussis) one.

I did everything in my power to keep my baby safe, and she was placed on a cocktail of medication to deal with her asthma. However, terrifyingly, when she was five-years-old, she contracted whooping cough. One day, when we were both home alone, during a coughing attack my baby girl suddenly collapsed in my arms and stopped breathing.

As a panicked 23-year-old with no phone, I somehow got the emotional and physical strength to remain focused and perform CPR on her, even dislodging a lump of mucus blocking her lungs. I got her breathing again, wrapped her in a blanket, bundled her into the passenger seat of my Renault 5 banger and took off like a getaway driver into Dublin’s Temple Street Hospital.

This happened in 1987, during the non-consultant hospital doctors’ strike, meaning when I arrived screaming, there was no doctor available in the emergency department! Mercifully, a consultant called Mr. Haq saw me racing through the doors with my gravely ill baby in my arms. He snatched her and ran to a cubicle leaving me on my knees hysterical. Mr. Haq told me my quick actions saved my child’s life, however, to this day I remain convinced my decision not to vaccinate her against whooping cough had resulted in her nearly dying.

Why am I telling you this? I know what it’s like for parents to have to make a decision for their child regarding a controversial vaccine, and I don’t envy them one bit. This pandemic has forced couples who’d normally be united, who’d agree and who’d trust each other’s parental judgements, into what is now an extremely difficult situation to become stuck!

By the way, my baby girl is fine. She’s the mother of my beautiful grandchild and is awaiting the arrival of my second grandchild.  Her sister arrived eleven years later, and by then, as it had been found that there was no evidence supporting an increased risk of adverse effects to children from the whooping cough vaccine – i.e. it’s completely safe – she received her jab.

The moral of the story? When it comes to vaccinating your child, compromise is not necessarily a choice…they either get the jab or they don’t. However, in the case of a 12 to 15-year-old, I’d advise that both parents (not just one) should make the decision alongside their child, after all, as they’re the ones considering a vaccination, their opinion should count.

 

It’s a girl for Stacey… finally!

I believe there’s no such thing as the ‘perfect’ family, which is why I needed help rolling my eyes back into the forward-facing position when I heard ‘Loose Women’ panellist Stacey Solomon’s shrill announcement (and relief) that she was, after four sons, ‘finally’ pregnant with a girl.

You see, according to Closer magazine, before the big gender reveal, Stacey had reportedly said: “I know there’s a risk it’ll be another boy though. If it’s not a girl – we’ll try again after”. Wow…’a risk’ that the child will be a boy! ‘A risk’ that the world will be populated by another member of the male species!

When I decided to stop having children following the birth of my two beautiful daughters, I was plagued by nosey parkers telling me ‘oh, you’ll have to go again’, bold-as-brass, hammering home the phrase ‘a gentleman’s family’ – meaning I ‘needed a boy’ to seal my place as a good ‘Catholic’ mother.

Indeed, by not producing the obligatory ‘son and heir’, it was as if I was an underachieving idiot weighed down by my dodgy reproductive organs.

When I announced I was having my tubes tied, a former sister-in-law lectured me for denying myself (and her brother) the chance to reach the pinnacle of my reproductive years and ‘produce a boy or two’ like her fabulous herself!

Having ‘one of each’ or ‘a pigeon pair’ is not, nor should it ever be, a parent’s ultimate goal. I know that gender disappointment is an officially recognised medical syndrome, but for me, having a baby was a glorious, miraculous lucky dip; a chance to be blessed with two precious humans I could love and cherish all the way to the moon and back.

Congratulations Stacey, I wish you and your ‘perfect’ family every happiness.

 

Why I’ve got no sympathy for a ‘reformed’ drug mule!

Revealing she ‘snorted cocaine off a table in McDonald’s’ may make some people think drug mule Michaella McCollum’s got street cred. But in my eyes, this little madam – along with her accomplice Melissa Reid – is, and always will be, a convicted drug smuggler.

When I read the tagline to promote the reformed bad-girl’s BBC documentary ‘High: Confessions of an Ibiza Drug Mule’, where she describes her ordeal, or as she calls it, her ‘journey’ from convicted trafficker to retired nun (my words, not hers), I laughed out loud. I’d love to know who’s in charge of this former jailbird’s publicity, because fair play to them, they’ve singlehandedly managed to market what was, let’s be honest, a greedy, profit-making, callous, public-enemy-number-one drug mule into Mother Teresa.

Indeed, when Michaella, giving us a delicate flutter of lashes to show her (ahem) remorse, suggested that viewers “might wonder how a regular kid from Northern Ireland ended up here,” my reaction was one of rumpled perplexity!

Why? Because being honest, I couldn’t find it in my heart to give a fiddlers about this smug cat-who-licked-the-cream ‘reformed’ drug trafficker; oh but of course I do wish Ms. McCollum and her fellow smuggler the very best!